Match Fixing Back on the Agenda

Match FixingUEFA has announced that it is to circulate an 11 point plan to 54 member associations aiming to deliver a consistent approach to the problem of match fixing.  No detail has been made available yet though on what those points are.

The issue has come to prominence again in recent weeks with a number of high profile arrests involving former top flight players.  In the summer Andros Townsend, a player who will feature for England in the 2014 World Cup was fined £18,000 for breaking gambling rules, yet on the day of the draw for that tournament, England manager Roy Hodgson was front page news telling supporters to have a tenner on England to win it.

Betting is all over soccer.  All of the clubs in the Premier League have an official betting partner and six carry the name on the front of their shirts.  Any televised match is dominated by billboards advertising a wide variety of companies and the TV advertising breaks around games are almost exclusively devoted to either motors or match betting.

There is a high degree of confusion over the influence of betting on sport.  There are those who argue it is the biggest single threat to sports integrity, even beyond doping.

Then there are others who point to the fact that betting is part of mainstream entertainment and that its growth has been part of the fuelling of the expansion in importance of sport as part of popular culture.

The truth as ever lies in the middle.

Betting companies are major sponsors of professional sport, pushing millions towards it every year.  Many of the companies are highly capitalised publicly quoted companies, including our own Paddy Power, as well as Ladbrokes, Betfair and William Hill.

Scare stories about millions being won and lost on individual bookings are a long way wide of the mark as we pointed out in a review of match fixing on Sport for Business earlier this year.

That was ahead of a Sport for Business Round Table held at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport where we considered how Ireland could play a key role in ensuring integrity in sport.

Two suggestions to emerge from that were a code of best practice for all sports in Ireland to sign up to as a starter, and assistance for player representative bodies that deal with the player impact and fallout of betting issues.

Progress has been slow, needing to reflect on a number of issues including a European wide investigation of soccer match fixing, but it may be an opportune moment to reconvene that group and put the foundations in place, or indeed highlight the measures already implemented to ensure that betting on sport is treated in the right manner.  It could also reflect on the outputs from a summit held earlier this week in London called by the British Department of Culture and Sport.

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